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Dr Christopher Lovejoy embedding 'organoids', photo : Charlie Murphy

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Professor Selina Wray placing neuronal cultures into incubator, photo : Charlie Murphy

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Colonies of neuronal cultures seen under miscroscope,Prof Selina Wray checking progress of neuronal cultures, photo : Charlie Murphy

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Prof Selina Wray checking progress of neuronal cultures, photo : Charlie Murphy

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Checking the progress of 3D neuronal cultures, photo : Charlie Murphy

Dementia Research

Professor Selina Wray leads cutting edge dementia research at UCL’s Instiute of Neurology to investigate why abnormalities in an important protein called ‘tau’ can lead to braincell death in different kinds of dementia. Her work aims to better understand the role of genes in the development of these conditions.

Using innovative stem cell technologies which facilitate a kind of ‘reverse engineering’, Selina is able to ‘reprogramme’ skin cells into stem cells which are a kind of “master cell” capable of forming any of the cell types in our body.

These stem cells are then ‘directed’ to become brain cells (neurons) “in a dish” which are nurtured over many months to create complex neuronal (brain cell) cultures. These extraordinary brain tissues – grown in 2 dimensional and now more three dimensional formats (cerebral organoids) outside of the body are offering scientists unique and valuable insights into the evolutionary development and some of the mechanisms of health and disease in our living brains (‘in vivo’) .

Working with small samples of skin donated by people living with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), familial Alzheimer’s Disease (fAD) and ‘control’ participants, Selina’s research investigates why brain cells generated from people living with these kinds of dementia behave differently to those from control participants.

Witnessing the careful nurturing and transformations of their own skin cells as they were transformed into brain cell cultures at Selina’s lab, the Brains team have been exploring novel new ways of sharing and opening up these powerful technological breakthroughs to wide public audiences through a dynamic public engagement events,   broadcasts,  publications and immersive artworks.

The Brains in a Dish project aims to deliver innovative range of creative tools and literary works to raise awareness about the valuable insights this field of dementia research is uncovering and the hope that these this  discoveries bring to the millions of people impacted by dementias. Our project also aims  to inform and open up debate and some of the profound ethical questions  and responsibilites which accompany these powerful  technologies.

Professor  Selina Wray and Dr Christopher Lovejoy are based at the UCL Institute of Neurology.

Their research is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) . Selina was awarded the David Hague Early Career Investigator of the Year Award 2018 (

The Wray lab is Alzheimers Research UK